Last year in a WeAreTeachers survey of nearly 10,000 educators, 61 percent said they carry student loan debt, and 21 percent said they carry a debt of $50,000 or more. Indeed, teachers have been hit particularly hard by exploding student loan debt in this country. Chalk it up to rising education costs, increased pressure for additional degrees, and lower pay across the board.
If you’re one of the many struggling educators out there, you might be wondering, “Am I eligible for student loan forgiveness?” Chances are, the answer is YES, no matter where you teach.
That’s because of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. There are two other options, Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) and Perkins loan cancellation, but those are more limited in the benefits they offer. Here are all of your questions about PSLF, answered.
What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness allows public service employees to consolidate their debt (which generally means drastically lower payments) AND wipes your debt clean after 10 years. Once you make 120 qualifying monthly payments, according to the terms of the program, your debt will be completely forgiven.
Am I eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
In order to qualify for PSLF, you need to:
- Work for a qualifying “public service” employer, such as a school
- Work at least 32 hours per week
- Have significant federal (not private) student loans (generally $25K+)
Am I still eligible for PSLF if I teach at a private school?
In most cases, yes. Employees of nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, which include most private schools, are eligible for PSLF.
I’m a paraprofessional. Do I qualify for PSLF?
As long as you meet the other qualifications, yes. Your specific job role does not matter for PSLF eligibility. Support staff and principals are eligible, too!
This sounds too good to be true! Could PSLF disappear?
The program is administered by Congress, so it is certainly possible that it could go away. In fact, President Trump’s first 2018 budget proposal suggested eliminating PSLF. However, the expectation is that those currently enrolled in the program will still have their debt forgiven. So if you’ve been putting off enrolling in PSLF, the time is now!
How do I sign up for PSLF?
You can contact your student loan servicer or do it yourself using government forms.
A word of warning, however: Some student loan service providers, including Navient and Great Lakes, are currently being sued for misleading their customers about PSLF. The customers in question wound up having to start over with their 10 years of repayments! So you definitely want to make sure that everything is set up correctly when you enroll.
Should I hire someone to help me enroll in PSLF?
Similar to doing your taxes, the choice is up to you. While there are student loan scams out there, there are also reputable companies that help their customers to navigate the red tape of programs like PSLF. One company that we like, which has strong BBB and Google reviews, is Student Debt USA, LLC, based in Boston. The team there knows the PSLF program inside and out—it’s all they do.
Do previous loan payments that I’ve made count toward PSLF?
In most cases, no. All 120 payments must be made while you are enrolled in the PSLF program. So before you make another payment, consider taking the steps to get enrolled today. Good luck!
This post is sponsored by Student Debt USA. If you would like help navigating loan forgiveness, click here to learn more or give them a call at 1-800-461-9203.
Plus, check out our live Q&A answering your questions about PSLF here:
Welcome! We're taking questions about student loan forgiveness for teachers. Joining us is Jody Soares, a special education teacher from Massachusetts who is enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, along with Andrew DiRamio, a student loan expert from Student Debt USA. Post your questions below and we'll get to as many as possible during tonight's event!
Posted by WeAreTeachers on Tuesday, June 5, 2018